Feb. 1, 2013 (TSR) – The independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory on Thursday published its findings on the implications Israeli settlements have upon the human rights of the Palestinian people.

The report on Thursday entitled “Report of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout  the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”, states that a multitude of the human rights of the Palestinians are violated in various forms and ways due to the existence of the settlements.

These violations are all interrelated, forming part of an overall pattern of breaches that are characterised principally by the denial of the right to self-determination and systemic discrimination against the Palestinian people which occur on a daily basis.

Since 1967, Israeli governments have openly led, directly participated in, and had full control of the planning, construction, development, consolidation and encouragement of settlements, the report states.

“In compliance with Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention Israel must cease all settlement activities without preconditions,” said Ms. Christine Chanet, chair of the Mission from France.

The report states that settlements are established and developed for the exclusive benefit of Israeli Jews. The settlements are maintained and advanced through a system of total segregation between the settlers and the rest of the population living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. This system of segregation is supported and facilitated by strict military and law enforcement control to the detriment of the rights of the Palestinian population.

“We are today calling on the government of Israel to ensure full accountability for all violations, put an end to the policy of impunity and to ensure justice for all victims,” said Ms. Asma Jahangir, member of the Mission from Pakistan.

The report states that Israel is committing serious breaches of its obligations under the right to self-determination and under humanitarian law. The report also concludes that the Rome Statute establishes the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction over the transfer of populations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

“The magnitude of violations relating to Israel’s policies of dispossessions, evictions, demolitions and displacements from land shows the widespread nature of these breaches of human rights. The motivation behind violence and intimidation against the Palestinians and their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands, allowing the settlements to expand,” said Ms. Unity Dow, member of the Mission from Botswana.

The report also states that private entities have also enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction of the settlements – both directly and indirectly.



Established at the UN nineteenth session, on March 22, 2012, in resolution 19/17, the Human Rights Council decided to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (OPT) and in the occupied Syrian Golan.

The President of the Human Rights Council appointed three high-level experts on 6 July 2012 as members of the international fact-finding mission (FFM): Ms. Christine Chanet (chair), Judge of the Court of Cassation of France and member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee; Ms. Unity Dow, Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists and practicing lawyer in Bostwana, and Ms. Asma Jahangir, leading Pakistani human rights lawyer and Trustee of the Board of the UN Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery.

The fact-finding UN Mission was convened for the first time in Geneva from 27 -31 August 2012. During that week, the FFM held meetings with concerned representatives of Permanent Missions and other relevant stakeholders. The Fact-Finding Mission agreed on its overall methodology and established a first outline for its programme of work.

Adopting its terms of reference in light of the mandate conferred by the Human Rights Council, the Mission was clearly instructed it to investigate all the human rights implications of the Israeli settlements for the Palestinians in the OPT including for the rights of those residing inside the settlements and in Israel and interpreted its mandate to require it to carry out its investigation within the legal framework provided by international human rights law together with other bodies of international law as relevant.  The Mission notes that the Israeli settlements also have other implications.

The “Israeli settlements”, hereinafter “settlements”, encompassed all physical and non-physical structures and processes that constitute, enable and support the establishment, expansion and maintenance of Israeli residential communities beyond the 1949 Green Line in the OPT.

Guided by the principles of “do no harm”, independence, impartiality, objectivity, discretion, transparency, confidentiality, integrity and professionalism, the Mission carefully analysed all available information that it considered relevant and credible, and did not differentiate between “settlements”, “settlement blocks”, “outposts”, or any other structures that have been erected, established, expanded and/or appropriated or any land or natural resources appropriated.

To ensure the greatest availability of impartial and varying information, a public call for written submissions were collected, which was also directly shared with representatives of Israeli settler communities.

During its visit to Amman on November 2012, the FFM listened to and collected first-hand information from a wide-range of stakeholders including people affected by the Israeli settlements; individuals and organisations working in the OPT and Israel; UN agencies, and Jordanian and Palestinian authorities. After receiving 62 submissions, the information, which was treated with confidentiality, was then analysed with information from governments, inter-governmental organisations, international and national NGOs, professional bodies, academics, victims, witnesses and the media. The UN Mission did not receive any testimony or submission on an anonymous basis.

The international legal framework applicable to the international human rights law and international humanitarian law, Israel is bound to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the full range of the social, economic, cultural, civil and political human rights of all persons within its jurisdiction as a result of its being party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), Convention on All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

Israel is also bound by relevant international human rights rules which form a part of customary international law.

The UN treaty bodies which monitor the implementation of the applicable human rights treaties have consistently concluded that the treaties to which Israel is a party are applicable in respect of acts carried out by Israel in the OPT. This has been confirmed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Furthermore, Israel’s human rights obligations apply both in peace and times of armed conflict. In the latter situation, they continue to apply alongside international humanitarian law to provide complementary and mutually-reinforcing protection.

A situation of military occupation prevails in the OPT. As the occupying Power, Israel is bound under international humanitarian law by a set of obligations which are provided for in the Hague Regulations 1907, annexed to the Hague Convention IV respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land 1907, which are recognised as forming part of customary international law, and Geneva Convention IV relative to the Protection of  Civilian Persons in Time of War 1949 (“Fourth Geneva Convention”), to which Israel is a High Contracting Party.

The applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the OPT has been decisively established by the International Court of Justice, and has been recognised and consistently reaffirmed inter alia by the Commission on Human Rights, Human Rights Council, Security Council, and General Assembly. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Palestinians living under occupation are “protected persons”, and thus the focus of Israel’s obligations under humanitarian law therein.

International humanitarian law establishes obligations on Israel inter alia concerning humane treatment and physical integrity of the Palestinians as protected persons; respect of their basic rights to education, fair trial, family, health, religion, and work; maintenance of public order and safety; respect of existing laws; respect and protection of real and personal property; and, the management of public property, including natural resources.

Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention also prohibits an occupying Power from transferring parts of its own civilian population into the territory that it occupies. This  prohibition has attained the status of customary international law. The Mission notes that the Israeli settlements in the OPT, including East Jerusalem, violate this provision and are, thus, illegal under international law.

The Mission has also considered where necessary other international law frameworks and principles. In a situation of prevailing impunity, the law on state responsibility for internationally-wrongful acts, including third state responsibility, is relevant. International criminal law enables the pursuit of individual criminal responsibility for conduct that amounts to international crimes. In this respect, on 3 December 2012, Palestine sent identical letters to the Secretary-General and the Security Council. Citing article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, it stated that “Israeli settlement activities” constitute war crimes, and that Israel must be held accountable for such acts.


‘Israeli settlements’ are located beyond the 1949 Green Line and include structures in East Jerusalem and in Area “C” of the West Bank. The Oslo Accords established Area “A” comprising approximately 18 per cent of the West Bank and encompassing urban  Palestinian areas under full control of the Palestinian Authority; Area “B” representing about 22 per cent of the vast majority of Palestinian rural areas, under Palestinian civil control while the Israeli army has security control; and Area “C” comprising an estimated 60 per cent of the territory, under full Israeli control for security, planning and construction purposes.

Settlements are generally located amongst the more vulnerable sections of Palestinian society, predominantly agrarian villages.

The FFM heard that settlers can broadly be divided into three categories. Those who have moved on quality of life grounds and live in settlements close to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Ultra-Orthodox Jews, who constitute over 25 per cent10 of the settler population, live in settlements largely isolated from other Israelis. Ultra-Orthodox Jews seem also to be motivated by economic incentives and cheaper housing and are generally found in settlements closer to the Green Line. A third group seems to be motivated by political and religious ideologies; they live in the central part of the West Bank, often very close to Palestinian communities.

Since 1967, Israeli Governments have openly led and directly participated in the planning, construction, development, consolidation and/or encouragement of settlements by including explicit provisions in the fundamental policy instrument (Basic policy guidelines), establishing governmental structures and implementing specific measures.

These specific measures include: i) building infrastructure; ii) encouraging Jewish migrants to Israel to move to settlements; iii) sponsoring economic activities; iv) supporting settlements through public services delivery and development projects; and v) seizing Palestinian land, some privately owned, requisitioning land for “military needs”, declaring or registering land as “State Land” and expropriating land for “public needs”.

Government investment in the settlements has not been made explicit in the Public Budget, but allocated through hidden provisions in a process that has been described as “partially secretive”11 and “a political tool.”12 Government investment, excluding military expenses, has fluctuated over the years with an estimated peak of 795.8 million US dollars in 2005. Quasi-Governmental organizations, funded by the Government, including the World Zionist Organization (WZO), also provide funds to the settlements.

A governmental scheme of subsidies and incentives has been put in place to encourage Jewish migrants to Israel to move to settlements and to boost settlements’ economic development. Settlements have been defined as “National Priority Areas” and  benefit from housing and education subsidies and direct incentives to the industrial, agricultural and tourism sectors.

Various sources refer to Settlement Master Plans, including the Allon Plan (1967), the Drobles Plan (1978) later expanded as the Sharon Plan (1981), and the Hundred Thousand Plan (1983). Despite these plans not having been officially approved they have largely been acted upon by successive Israeli Governments. The Mission notes a pattern where plans that were developed regarding the settlements were mirrored in Government policy instruments and implemented on the ground.

The first settlement established was Kefar Ezyon in September 1967. In the early years the establishment of settlements followed a typical pattern. The settlers had access to the highest ranking Government officials, played on their emotional ties to the land and encouraged these officials to lead and participate in establishing and expanding settlements through, inter alia, the seizure of land for “military purposes”.

In June 1967, Israel illegally annexed 70 km2 of land incorporating East Jerusalem and a number of nearby Palestinian villages into the expanded boundaries of Israel’s Jerusalem municipality. It promptly built twelve Israeli “neighbourhoods” which enveloped nearby Palestinian quarters and villages. An outer layer of settlements beyond the Municipal boundaries were then built severing the geographical continuity of the city from the rest of the West Bank. Since the 1970s, Israel’s Jerusalem municipality has openly pursued a policy of “demographic balance” most recently seen in the city master-plan also known as “Jerusalem 2000”. The master-plan calls for a 60/40 demographic balance in favour of Jewish residents.

Studies on settlements commissioned by the Office of the Prime Minister in 2005 (Sason report) and 2012 (Levy report) document the Government’s authorization in the establishment and expansion of settlements up to 1992 and indicate that settlements built afterwards with no Government authorization (“outposts”) were established with the “full knowledge of all [authorities], starting with the government ministers and prime minister, and until the lowest enforcing agencies (…) the denial had but one goal only: to withstand criticism by various factors, mostly international”. Sason concluded that “unauthorized outposts violate[s] standard procedure, good governing rules (…) endanger the principal of the rule of law [and thus] urgent measures must be taken to change [this] reality”15. In contrast the findings of the Levy report suggested the retroactive authorization of “outposts”.

In September 2005, through the “disengagement plan”, Israel dismantled settlements in the Gaza Strip (and four in the West Bank), evacuated the settlers residing there and withdrew the army, while maintaining exclusive control of the air space of Gaza and continued to conduct military activities in the territorial waters of the Gaza Strip. The “disengagement plan” was presented in Israel as an essential step to preserve its control on the settlements in the West Bank. As Prime Minister Sharon said “in the framework of the ‘disengagement plan’ Israel would strengthen its control of those parts of the land that will constitute an inalienable part of the State of Israel in any future agreement.”

About 250 settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem have been established since 1967 either with or without Government authorization. The number of settlers is estimated at 520,00017 (200,00018 in East Jerusalem and 320,000 in the rest of the West Bank). Over the past decade the settler population has grown at a much higher rate than the population in Israel itself with a yearly average growth of 5.3 per cent (excluding East Jerusalem), compared to 1.8 per cent in Israel.

After years of court orders, evacuations of the Migron and Ulpana “outposts” took place in 2012. However, settlers responsible for appropriating private Palestinian land without Government authorization were provided after the evacuation with new homes in
nearby settlements. The Government paid for the transfer of their property and the rental on the new homes.

The Government in place since April 2009 has contributed to the consolidation and expansion of settlements. Government spending on the settlements during 2011 was 38 per cent more than in 2010.

On 14 November 2012, the Finance Minister, Yuval Steinitz, said “we’ve doubled the budget for Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]. We did this in a low- profile manner, because we didn’t want parties either in Israel or abroad to thwart the


The facts brought to the attention of the Mission indicate that the State of Israel has had full control of the settlements in the OPT since 1967 and continues to promote and sustain them through infrastructure and security measures. The Mission notes  that despite all the pertinent United Nations resolutions declaring that the existence of the settlements is illegal and calling for their cessation, the planning and growth of the settlements continues both of existing as well as new structures.

The establishment of the settlements in the West Bank including East Jerusalem  is a mesh of construction and infrastructure leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian State and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

The settlements are established for the exclusive benefit of Israeli Jews; settlements are being maintained and developed through a system of total segregation between the settlers and the rest of the population living in the OPT. This system of  segregation is supported and facilitated by a strict military and law enforcement control to the detriment of the rights of the Palestinian population.

The Mission considers that in relation to the settlements Israel is committing serious breaches of its obligations under the right to self-determination and “certain obligations under international humanitarian law”, including the obligation not to transfer its population into the OPT.

The existence of the settlements has had a heavy toll on the rights of the Palestinians. Their rights to freedom of self-determination, non-discrimination, freedom of movement, equality, due process, fair trial, not to be arbitrarily detained, liberty and security of person, freedom of expression, freedom to access places of worship, education, water, housing, adequate standard of living, property, access to natural resources and effective remedy are being violated consistently and on a daily basis.

The Mission has noted that the identities of settlers who are responsible for violence and intimidation are known to the Israeli authorities, yet these acts continue with impunity.  The Mission is led to the clear conclusion that there is institutionalised  discrimination against the Palestinian people when it comes to addressing violence.

The UN Inquiry believes that the motivation behind this violence and the intimidation against the Palestinians as well as their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands and allow the settlements to expand.

The report thus recommends Israel must, in compliance with article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, cease all settlement activities without preconditions and must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers from the OPT.

The independent fact-finding mission called upon the government of Israel to ensure full accountability for all violations, including for all acts of settler violence, in a non-discriminatory manner and to put an end to the policy of impunity.

They also called upon all Member States to comply with their obligations under international law and to assume their responsibilities in their relationship to a State breaching peremptory norms of international law – specifically not to recognise  an unlawful situation resulting from Israel’s violations.  This also includes private companies to terminate their business interests in the settlements.


The FFM UN report “Report of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout  the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” will be formally presented to the Human Rights Council (HRC) at its 22nd session in 18 March 2013.


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